Aristotle on verbal communication: The first chapters of De Interpretatione

Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication 7 (2):239-253 (2016)
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ABSTRACT This article deals with the communicational aspects of Aristotle’s theory of signification as laid out in the initial chapters of the De Interpretatione (Int.).1 We begin by outlining the reception and main interpretations of the chapters under discussion, rather siding with the linguistic strand. We then argue that the first four chapters present an account of verbal communication, in which words signify things via thoughts. We show how Aristotle determines voice as a conventional and hence accidental medium of signification: words as ‘spoken sounds’ are tokens of thoughts, which in turn are signs or natural likenesses of things. We argue that, in this way, linguistic expressions may both signify thoughts and refer to things. This double account of signification also explains the variety of ontological, logical and psychological interpretations of the initial chapters of Int.

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